Sweet Chili’s Thaietnamese Salty Sweet Goodness
Last week, Brian reported that Sweet Chili, the new food truck run by Lisa Fernandes, finalist of Top Chef Season 4 (Chicago), was parking at the loading dock of 777 3rd Avenue (at the corner of 48th and 3rd) every Monday. Since I’m pretty much at the loading dock of 777 3rd Avenue all the time now for the Mamu Thai Noodle Truck and the Old Traditional Polish Cuisine Truck, I knew the loading dock wouldn’t let me down with Sweet Chili!
Though I did have some weariness towards Sweet Chili’s so-called Thaientamese food, or really, Asian-fusion food in general, I tried to cast them aside, knowing that Chef Lisa was runner-up in Season 4′s Top Chef Chicago, as well as the fact that she has over twenty years of culinary experience in high end restaurants such as Asia de Cuba, Rain Thai Restaurant, and Public. She’s a woman who loves to create new flavors, and seems to have the creds to back it up. At Sweet Chili, for $9, you get to choose between one of the four proteins, and one of three salads to go along with a side of jasmine rice.
Naturally, as a sucker for all things pork, I had to order the Spicy Caramel Pork, which is a pan-fried pork belly tossed in Chef Lisa’s signature spicy caramel sauce. I was torn between ordering that or the Miso Glazed Silken Tofu, for which she won a challenge on Top Chef, but I’ll have to try that another time.
I’m not even sure if I’ve ordered pork belly anywhere for lunch in Midtown, so this was already a treat for me. There was a good mix between fatty pieces and more meaty crunchy pieces, all seared on the ends and tossed in a sweet glaze. I actually didn’t think the sauce was that spicy – the salad seemed spicier – and I ended up mixing my whole plate together to spoon in pork, salad, and rice all at the same time.
The green mango salad that I ordered to accompany the pork belly had a real nice kick to it. Shredded with jicama as well, the mango and jicama were immersed in Nuoc Cham, a.k.a Vietnamese dipping sauces known for being all flavors at once: sweet, salty, sour and spicy. The whole salad had a vinegary taste to it, which I really liked, and was sprinked with chili salt too for an extra zing. I’m a big fan of Carolina Pulled Pork BBQ and its vinegar based sauces, so this pairing of sweet pork belly and a vinegary salad kind of reminded me of an Asian inspired version of that. In other words, the Sweet Chili name holds true!
The only regret I had about the whole meal is that because it’s so saucy, I would have liked a bit more rice. It just wasn’t enough to sop up all the sauce.
I’m looking forward to trying all the other entrees featured on the menu. There’s a great outdoor seating area right across from the loading dock, and some other people sitting near me seemed to be enjoying the Heavenly Beef a lot. Beat the rain today and try Sweet Chili!
The + (What somebody who likes this place would say)
- I finally found a place for my pork belly fix!
- Loving the mix of sweet, spicy, savory flavors
- I’m ordering food made by a Top Chef contestant herself!
The – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)
- I need more rice.
- It’s Thaietnamese food, so you’re not really going to find any standard Thai or Vietnamese dishes if that’s what you’re looking for.
- It doesn’t matter what entree you order, it’s $9, no sliding scale